If you line up all of the albums by Wade Hayes, from the first one (Old Enough to Know Better – 1994) to the current one, Place To Turn Around, you can't help but notice the covers are an accurate photographic reflection of the evolution of the man and so it should come as no surprise that the album contents are indicative of how his music has kept pace and grown with him. The best part is, like the proverbial fine wine, Hayes has only gotten better over time.
It's no secret that the best songs are usually autobiographical and just as you can see Hayes physically maturing on the covers, you can hear him maturing in his voice and lyric delivery as the years go by. He entered the country music scene with strong roots already in place, provided by his equally handsome, and very talented, father, and a most devoted and supportive mother. By the time he left for Nashville, as a family, they had secured him an all around talent quotient that already exceeded the best the industry had to offer. But unlike his Nashville peers, Hayes didn't aspire to be a country superstar, in fact, the reality of it is, his goals paled by comparison; he merely wanted to be a “successful musician and songwriter”. No one was more surprised than he was when fame came knockin' on the heels of “Old Enough to Know Better.” His life in the years that followed have been well documented and the journey that led to his current album is one of true success, his success being that he is finally doing what he wanted all along, he is now playing lead guitar, and singing vocal harmony, for The Randy Owen Band. Owen was formerly the lead singer for the popular group Alabama. Lucky for us, he decided the time was right to do another album, but this time, he was going to do it his way.
Hayes is certainly one of the most profound and prolific balladeers of his generation. He has always sung with a lot of feeling but perhaps one of the reasons he is able to convey the lyrics with so much heartfelt passion on this album is because he wrote, or contributed to writing, nine of the eleven tracks.
On the first run through, “What's A Broken Heart for You” stood out and I'm certain I'm not going to be the only one who identifies with the lyrics of this song, but every track offered up something unique and/or memorable. After all, who hasn't had “A Good Day to Go Crazy” and I am truly mystified as to why “The Best Part” hasn't found a safe harbor on country radio. This struck me as one of the most “radio friendly” tunes I've heard in ages.
“I Want To” is an easy, rhythmic, two-stepper with a catchy chorus and “She Knows Me” is a melodious waltz driven by heavenly steel guitar and this sweet tune will have women, everywhere, nodding in agreement to the lyrics. “Every Time I Give the Devil a Ride (he wants to drive)” is a skillfully written, high energy, toe tapper that showcases the instrumentals. Speaking of instrumentals, the mandolin you hear on “Place to Turn Around,” and elsewhere on the album, is most likely Hayes. An accomplished musician, he could most likely even teach Brad Paisley a few new tricks.
“I Wouldn't Know” is an awesome song and never has sarcasm been as palatable as it is in this beautiful song about a lost love. I think I played this track about ten times while trying to choose a favorite cut. I loved it! Problem is, I also loved the title cut, and the next cut and, well, I finally came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be able to pick a favorite. The album is like a delicious musical smorgasbord where all the entree's are winners.
Place to Turn Around was a true “hands on” album for Hayes and he released it independently. “It’s the album I always wanted to make,” he says.
As I listen to the album play through one more time, while trying to think of the right words to do it justice, it finally dawns on me, there is only one word that is appropriate, “Encore.”